BATJC member Mia Mingus was interviewed by radio program In Plain Sight about love, transformative justice, and the work of the BATJC responding to child sexual abuse. In Plain Sight is a podcast that features stories of everyday activism from Asian and Asian American women.
Download or stream the podcast on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/in-plain-sight-1/episode-2-the-work-of-love
Transcript of interview:
Mia: You know, I think for me, liberation work looks, all kinds of different ways. I think it’s any work that’s helping us move towards, you know, not just freedom and justice but like, love and the world that we want to have and the world that we want to be in, and the relationships, and the way that we want to relate to each other ultimately. And so…
Geraldine: What is that? Like, what does, what is the work of love? What is love?
Mia: I mean, I don’t know everything that love is. I think that.. I think love is justice. I think love is… love is liberation. And liberation is love. Like, those things I feel like are true.
[laughter] Hi, my name is Mia Mingus. I am a writer, I’m a community organizer and a community educator. And I do a lot of work specifically around disability justice and transformative justice responses to child sexual abuse.
So, I do work with the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective. The BATJC for short, which is not short, but, that’s for short. [laughter] And, we are a collective of folks and we are folks who are committed to figuring out how to respond to child sexual abuse without relying on the state, and how to do it in ways that are transformative and that actively can cultivate the things that we need. Things like healing and accountability and community and breaking isolation and all of those things. A lot of the response support that we do right now is historical cases of CSA, and so, it’s mainly adults who come to us. Some of them are survivors, some of them are bystanders. And they want to respond in their family, community, network, church, whatever. Whether it’s like they’re a survivor of child sexual abuse that happened when they were 9 by their brother and they want to figure out now as an adult how to confront what happened. Or, they’re trying to figure out how to confront their former youth pastor on what happened.
So, we do a lot of response support and we sit with them and think about mapping allies, and how to think strategically on how you could do this, and who they have for support, making safety plans, all of those things. Right? How to think about people’s safety in advance. What are safety plans not just for survivors, not just for bystanders, but also maybe for the person who has caused harm as well, right? Because part of this work is about prison abolition, and we don’t think that people should be locked up in cages. We don’t think that people are inherently born as criminals, for example, as the way we get told by society. We actually believe that these are learned behaviors, and we actually believe that accountability, healing, that those things are possible.
At the same time that we’re doing our work one of the things that we know is that violence is generational and violence is systemic, and it’s not something that people just invent in their head. These are practices and behaviors that have been passed on by generation to generation. Both around all kinds of violence, right? State violence gets passed down generationally, and then that trauma gets passed down generationally, and specifically with intimate violence, you can literally look at people’s family trees and family histories and see how the violence was literally passed down. And so, what we know is that because violence is generation, and because it is systemic, that we need everybody to end violence. We need everybody to end it. And what that also means is that we can’t just only work with survivors, we also have to work with people who have caused harm and people who have been violence. And what we also know is that because violence is so widespread, that most of us have also caused harm at some point in our lives as well, either intentionally or unintentionally, most of us have colluded with violence as well, and allowed for violence to happen.
You know, we exist in a community and in a broader society right now where child sexual abuse is one of the most polarizing forms of violence that there is. People who even are nonviolent, even people who don’t believe in prisons are like, “But if anybody ever touched my kid, you know, I would kill them,” or, “Those people definitely deserve to rot in jail, and everybody else you know doesn’t.” But, I think that a lot of what transformative justice and community accountability work has really taught me, is about how do we get away from these notions of like, good and bad people. Yes, there are gonna be times we’re going to have to draw hard lines and say, “we are not going to tolerate child sexual abuse in our community. That’s not going to happen. And, we also need to have compassion and empathy and be able to hold contradiction. Right? It doesn’t mean that we give away, or like, we go all the way to one side or the other of that pendulum. It means that we figure out how we can have skills in all of those things. Right? Without having to sacrifice one for the other. How we can hold the line firmly, with accountability and integrity, but also hold compassion and empathy. There is a way to do that. I feel like we get taught that the only way to hold firm lines is to do it in this really harsh, punitive way. But that we get into a better space, a different space, where we learn how to have compassion and empathy, and have boundaries. Those two things can exist together, right. You don’t have to be totally for something or totally against something. You can have complexity in your thinking. And it’s ok. And that means none of us are deserving of violence and nobody is deserving of peace, for example. And I think what that it also does and means and requires of us is that we begin to do this work around humanizing offenders, which is really hard work. But it also means that we have to humanize ourselves as well, and the parts of ourselves that we push away and that we’ve criminalized within ourselves. And I think it also means, on the flip side, which is equally as hard, that we have to also equalize survivors. And stop pushing survivors into this cage and this 1-dimensional way of being, right? That survivors have to be this perfect, innocent, most of the time white, most of the time [xyz] kind of thing, or else, and being, or else we don’t deserve to have justice. Or else we deserved the violence that happened to us. And so, while that has been very challenging, there’s this other side of it that I think has also been really great because it has brought us to this place where we are actively engaging our minds, our hearts, our bodies, our spirits in our work too. So, it feels, so, it feels very whole in this way that’s not about perfection, but that’s more about, complexity and nuance can exist now. That feels, really human, and I think a lot of our political work should be about, and a lot of our liberatory work, should make us more human in an inhumane world.
Part of this work is really tapping into the skill and capacity of vision, and what a collective vision of liberation would look like. And concretely. Getting as concrete as you can. And really believing that another world is possible. And really challenging us to, again, not just say things like, “Oh we just don’t want prisons,” but really challenging us to think about ok, then how are we gonna handle conflict when it happens? Then what are we gonna do with people who are violent one time, or who are maybe abusive? Right? Like, what does that look like?
Our liberation work and our work for social justice should be grounded in love. And it should come from a place of love and what we want and our longing for something and what we’re moving towards, rather than what we’re against and what we don’t want, and rather than a place of hate, disgust or despising, whatever. That it should come from a place of love. Because we’re so good at talking about what we don’t want, and we’re so good at resisting the world that we know is fucked up. When I think about the work of liberation and the work of love, it’s all of it. It’s all of our lives. And that’s really what we’re asking. Is for transformation of your life and who you are. I think bell hooks has a quote about this. That we think that love is gonna be this place where all our needs get met and where we never have to worry about things. But that actually, the purpose of love is to transform us, and the process of transformation is so difficult.
Geraldine: The Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective works to build and support transformative justice responses to child sexual abuse. To learn more about the BATJC, you can visit their website at batjc.wordpress.com, or you can visit the In Plain Sight website at inplainsightradio.com for links to the BATJC and more information about what you heard today. And as always, if you have any thoughts and comments, please let us know! We’d love to hear from you.
This is a big conversation, and we’re not done yet. Next time on In Plain Sight, stay tuned to hear Part 2, when Mia talks about disability justice and how we can share our love with each other in order to realize the world that we not only need, but long for. We’ll see you there!